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  • Writer's pictureTenley Sablatzky

A Mix of Old and New - King's College

Today we went to King's College where we got a tour of the campus libraries and also got to see several of their special collections items up-close-and-personal. The most interesting thing about today was the sharp juxtaposition between the old and the new. Much like Christ's Church library, King's College is still, well, a college; thus, much of what we shall was remarkably similar to what I've seen at colleges around the United States. There's the general reading collection, the same circulation desks (with self check-outs), and the same study rooms.

One difference being their study areas are far more beautiful. For example, their main reading room has a rumor among the students that Dumbledore's office scenes were shot there. Though this is not true... upon going in, I can understand.

Honestly, it's basically a slightly smaller version of the British Museum's Reading Room. Both are absolutely gorgeous and video doesn't really do them justice. What I wouldn't give to go to college here, and get to do my studying in this room...

Anyways, the other part of today was a talk by the special collections librarian where we got to hear and see several of their rare books. In total, they have 200,000 special collection items ranging from the 15th century to the present day. Including some American history items, such as, a copy of "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine with "Plain Truth" in the back, a signed collection of Allen Ginsburg's poetry, and a legal document by Benjamin Franklin.

They also have a variety of other items, of course; including religious documents, and science and history texts. One of the challenges that the librarian talked about was with Tamil edition of the New Testament that's bound in wood (and gorgeous). However, the maintenance of the item is tricky because of the lack of availability of materials used to create it. Additionally, the typeface gets smaller and smaller as the book goes along, making it incredibly tricky to actually read.

An interesting quote I wrote down from the talk today mentions that newer items like this present more challenges:

"The older the book the less preservation challenges because those books were made of better materials."

Coming from outside the special collections world, I hadn't thought about this before, but I found incredibly interesting the challenges that come with different materials. Later, being interested in the topic I did some Googling and found some articles about preservation in academic libraries to learn more about the subject. I'll leave you with one of those articles.

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